By: Sean King
On April 17, Keep Rockland Beautiful held town cleanups in Piermont, Nanuet, and Spring Valley, as a part of The Great American Cleanup’s Earth Day celebrations. Piermont annually rallies its residents to get involved with the village’s efforts to reduce the pollution that is detrimental to local bird and fish populations The cleanup was canceled last year due to Covid-19, however, the event returned this year with parallel energy to previous efforts.
With a maxed-out capacity of 50 volunteers and health protocols enforced, participants put on their muck boots and gloves to retrieve what they could find. Keep Rockland Beautiful supplied volunteers with garbage grabbers, recycling bags, and gloves to remove fishing lines, hooks, and microplastics from the waterline. The highway department picked up the bags of litter.
This year, volunteers worked at three locations: Tallman Mountain State Park, Parelli Park, and Piermont Pier. Some stayed more toward the road area, while others got down in the marsh to scavenge for garbage. Jamie Surya, the cleanup coordinator, said she “encourages people to get as deep as they are comfortable going.”
Volunteers of all ages, and several local girl scout troops, came out on the sunny, cool Saturday morning to give back to the community. “It’s great to see them come together and stay involved within the community,” said Surya. The Piermont Fire Department also pitched in, helping volunteers sort bags of waste removed from the site.
“Education and action happening on a more systemic level is positive,” said Surya. “It really gets the word out.” With Piermont bordering the Hudson River, it is “really important that our community is very mindful of what goes in our waterways.” By cleaning the plastics and fishing supplies, Surya trusts that the town will continue to take environmentally-friendly steps to protect both the fish and bird populations of the area.
Distinct to Piermont are the great populations of geese, eagles, osprey, hawks, and Cormorants that occupy the marsh, as well as the different species of fish in the river. The town is designated as a ‘bird sanctuary’, a feeding ground for many birds, so the organizers aimed to provide a safe, clean pass-through for them.
“Our motto is: Clean Streets equals Clean Streams,” said Sara Tucker, of Piermont “What ends up in the streets ends up in the drains, which goes right to our waterways.” Tucker’s husband, Mayor Bruce Tucker, passed the plastic bag ban last year which was an “incredible step” in creating sustainable change. “If we make people aware, then they may be compelled to pick up a piece of litter they see by a drain because they don’t want to see it enter the streams,” said Tucker. “It is all connected.”
Surya views the cleanup as a “key” initiative that aims to break the cycle of harmful pollution, “These little pieces of plastic get into our fish, then people consume the fish from the river.” By cleaning up, both the fish and human groups benefit. She looks forward to seeing more people become “engaged and aware” and believes that the full turnout of the event is a testament to the care that people already have when it comes to their local scene., “Having a nice place to visit, a safe place for your dog to walk without you worrying that they step on a fishing line is all- important.”
To thank the committed volunteers, the Piermont Police Athletic League held a community BBQ after the cleanup. “People come back year after year,” said Tucker “We get new people, as we try to get the information out to the local area to come volunteer.” From Piermont and across Rockland County, local citizens are taking the initiative to clean up for Earth Day.